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Evening Taps during Covid-19

by Jari Villanueva Taps Bugler ©2020

I have noticed some news stories about people sounding Taps each evening in their neighborhoods. Buglers and trumpeters are playing the 24-note call that has been associated with our nation since the Civil War. I received a few inquires whether it was against any protocols to sound the call in the evening.

The bugle call of Taps was originally created to replace the regulation call for lights out and remained in the Army manuals for 30 years as just that-the signal to extinguish lights and go to sleep. Taps went on to be associated with funerals by the end of the Civil War and used as a funeral honor at military funerals. It became an officially recognized funeral honors in 1891. The call was, and remains, a signal to mark the end of the day notifying one to go to sleep. It is the only call in the military with a dual purpose-to signal lights out and as an honor at military funerals. It should be noted Taps is never to be used as call to lower or burn the US flag.

Over the decades Taps has been used as a call to memorialize or remember those in uniform. In 2013 Congress recognized Taps our our National Song of Remembrance.  This movement was done to codify the music and protocols associated with Taps.

The call has transcended its original use. It has been used to mark the end of the day at many events. Many Americans can recall hearing it at summer camps, even at the Interlochen Center for the Arts music camp. The call was incorporated into Scouting. As a Boy Scout I sounded the call at the end of weekly meetings. Girl Scouts have sung the words “Day is Done…” Over the years people have used the call to remember a loved one even if they have not served in uniform.

After national tragedies such as a mass shooting or natural disaster someone has sounded Taps. The 24 notes bring a certain amount of comfort and a time for complementation and reflection. It takes about a minute and many use that moment to pray or remember. 

Kevin McKay plays Taps from his Everett home Wednesday — as he does every night — providing an apparently welcome sound to his neighbors in the Seahurst area. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The 24 notes bring a certain amount of comfort and a time for complementation and reflection. It takes about a minute and many use that time to pray or remember. 

There have been news stories over the past decade of those sounding the call each evening at their home, on a street corner, on on a beach. Most of these involved people using the digital bugle, an instrument that plays a recording of Taps. Some have used sound systems. However some did feature a live performer who sounded the call.

Josh Landress, a US Marine veteran, sounds the call each evening from his Balcony in New York

13-year old Alex Saldana of Oradell sounding Taps at a Veterans Home

As a military honors Taps is reserved as a honor for those who served in uniform. That is sacrosanct. It’s as important as the flag being presented.

As a call of remembrance in the evening it is a call for all Americans. In this time of the current health crisis it is appropriate to sound Taps. I don’t believe it’s a breech of any type of military protocol. It’s a piece of music for all of us. I have always observed there are two pieces of music that stir the hearts of all Americans-The Star-Spangled Banner and Taps. 

Perhaps and idea for trumpeters an buglers would be to play The Star-Spangled Banner (or sound To The Color) followed by a moment of silence and then Taps.

Sounding Taps each evening at 7 pm could be a sign we are united in this crisis. 

If you do sound Taps in the evening use social distancing. Do not encourage any types of gathering.

Orchestra leader Andre Rieu posted a video on his Facebook page this past weekend of the young trumpeter Melissa Venema playing an arrangement of Il Silenzio (The Silence), the bugle call that is sounded in the evening in the Italian military. It’s has garnered thousands of views. The call (which bears a little resemblance to Taps, although there is no connection) marks the end of the duty day and was popularized in the 1960s when recorded by trumpeter Nini Rosso.

You can watch the video by clicking the photo below:

Melissa Venema

A Taps For Veterans Event

Join us on April 25th to sound the bugle call last Post


Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served. Observed on April 25th each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honor the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War.

Because of the current health crisis. Australian and New Zealand have been forced to cancel their annual commemorations which include ceremonies, and parades.

You can find more information on the April 25th event here

If you do sound Taps in the evening use social distancing. Do not encourage any types of gathering.

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One Comment

  1. Don Hammond Don Hammond April 28, 2020

    I’m former military broadcaster and current anchor military reporter at WLTZ right near Fort Benning Georgia. 41 years in this business and never heard taps played at a birthday party to honor a 94 year old veteran. The man has alzheimers disease however is in otherwise good health and should have some more years left in him. His daughter had some young people from a school of music sing and a trumpet player play taps. The young people have no idea of the significance, history or protocols tied to taps. I am looking for someone in the fort benning area who I could interview to set the record straight. We aired this on our channel and I was pretty appalled when the daughter said her dad was part of the “1000” a day club” but was still very much alive 937-301-1953.

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